From the Pastor
Happy Va-LENT-ine’s Day!
Did you notice Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day this year? Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and the day we receive ashes on our foreheads while hearing the words “You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). It begins a season focused on repentance and quiet reflection on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Valentine’s Day originated in the church as a feast day honoring a Christian leader named “Valentine” who was put to death for ministering to the otherwise unloved people in his midst. Today it is ordinarily dedicated to gift-giving and romantic dinners between couples. What could these two days possibly have to do with one another?
The story is told of a little girl who was getting ready for the yearly Valentine’s Day celebration at her school. Her mother bought a pack of 30 Valentine’s Day cards. “You can share one with everyone in your class!” the girl’s mother said. “No Mom,” her daughter replied. “That’s not the way we do it. I only need five or six cards to pass around. I just give them to my friends!” That was as far as the conversation went. The girl got her six cards, signed and sealed them, put one friend’s name on the outside of each, and took them all along to school. There she inserted them into a big, decorated box with a slot on top, on the teacher’s desk. When the day of the party came, all the valentines prepared by the children were in that big box. One of the little girl’s classmates was then asked to play “mailman” and delivered the cards to the kids whose names were written on them. As the cards were delivered, the little girl saw her stash getting larger and larger. Another child, seated in front of her, had none. This other child would look and wait each time the “mailman” got close to her desk. But the much-anticipated card from a friend didn’t come. Finally, just as the delivery of valentines was almost over, the child seated in front of the little girl saw the “mailman” draw close. A card was dropped on her desk. Beaming, this child immediately tore it open and saw the message inside: “From a secret admirer.” She smiled and looked around, wondering who the giver might be. But the little girl of our story knew. When she got home, her mother revealed what had happened. She had secretly sealed every card purchased from the store and mailed them, ahead of time, to her daughter’s teacher! The little girl found herself put to shame for her earlier desire to only use some of the cards, and not all. She was happy her mother had ensured that EVERYONE would be included.
Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, at first glance, seem to have nothing in common. But on this Ash Wednesday and throughout this season of Lent, we find ourselves put to shame by the all-inclusive love of God for the world--God’s love for ALL, including you and me—demonstrated by the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). Think of the cross of Christ you wear on your forehead this Ash Wednesday as a kind of Valentine’s Day message. In Christ Jesus, you are loved. You are treasured. Let’s have that be our focus throughout this year’s Lenten journey to the cross of Christ!
In the love of Jesus,